Ajax defeated FK Borac again on Thursday. Marco van Basten's team had a slow start against the Serbians and won by 2-0. ,,These are difficult matches”, the coach summarised the evening.
How to play a match that already has been decided? That was the problem Marco van Basten was faced with prior to the return match against FK Borac in the first round of the UEFA Cup. Ajax had won by 4-1 in Serbia two weeks earlier, and would not relinquish that margin in the ArenA.
The Ajax coach did however take the match seriously and began in his strongest lineup. Yet the team he fielded was diferent from the one that had beaten Vitesse on Sunday by 3-0. Kenneth Vermeer began on goal because Maarten Stekelenburg and Dennis Gentenaar will be sidelined for some time. Dario Cvitanich started as left forward instead of Jeffrey Sarpong, earning his first start in Ajax 1. Evander Sno took Siem de Jong's place in midfield.
In the first 45 minutes, Ajax were not sharp enough. ,,I was not satisfied with our first half”, Van Basten said. ,,We played in a too slow pace and kept looking at eac other when a job had to be done. That cannot happen at this level. Luckily, the second half was much better.”
By replacing Sno with Jeffrey Sarpong at halftime, Ajax were more offensive-minded. Borac was forced back more and more and gave in to the pressure by the home side in the 71st minute. Klaas Jan Huntelaar touched the ball to Sarpong who struck from distance. At that point in the match, Ajax had a whole new midfield, because besides Sno, Jan Vertonghen and Eyong Enoh were also taken off and replaced by Rasmus Lindgren and Vurnon Anita.
After the 1-0, Ajax had several chances to score again. Huntelaar came close with a header in the 80th minute, but it was saved by the excellent goalkeeper Branko Grahovac. In added time, Suarez scored from a pass by Robbert Schilder, giving the fans what they deserved. ,,These are difficult matches”, Van Basten said. ,,The longer it stays 0-0, the more confidence the opponent gets. Thankfully the fans supported us the whole time and got us through. When the first goal came, the ban was lifted.”
Despite the loss, Borac coach Nenad Milovanovic looked back on a good night in Amsterdam. ,,We were already honoured to play in the UEFA Cup”, he said. ,,Now I hope that Ajax will win the tournament.” Ajax now go to the group stage. The draw will be held in Nyon on Tuesday.